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Dementia Conversation Tips

You and Your Aging Parents
Talking to loved ones about dementia

This blog is part of a year-long series aimed at addressing some of the most frequently asked questions we hear from family and adult children on the topics most concerning them regarding their aging parents or loved one. In 2012 Hebrew SeniorLife published the eBook "You & Your Aging Parent: A Family Approach to Lifelong Health, Wellness & Care," a compilation of answers from HSL geriatric experts in response to the many of the most frequently asked questions. We're reposting some of the most popular Q&A posts from our original eBook which was downloaded over 2,000 times. We're also adding new Q&As throughout the series that address topics not originally included in our eBook. Sign up to receive the blog series and download our original eBook at www.hslindependentliving.org

What should you do if you believe dementia exists?

First, find out more about dementia and its symptoms. Talk with your extended family to get their impressions and see if they share your concerns. If your loved one is displaying symptoms, accompany them to their next appointment with their primary care clinician. You can also request a consultation with someone who specializes in cognitive disorders. 

When it comes time to have the difficult conversation acknowledging these changes in your parents, consider having other family members present for the conversation. Be mindful not to have more than a few people present because a large group may frighten your loved one. Start the conversation by addressing why you are concerned and stress that your loved one is still the remarkable person they always were, independent of any cognitive impairment.

It may help to explain that the medical community knows much more about dementia today and that treatment options do exist. Also, discuss some of the positive interventions available, such as physical exercise, a healthy diet, avoiding social isolation and participating in mentally stimulating activities. This recent article from the Alzheimer’s Society - Talking to a Loved One About Dementia - provides helpful tips.

To download your copy of our “You and Your Aging Parent” ebook, visit our website, www.agingredefined.org.

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NewBridge on the Charles offers the Gilda and Alfred A. Slifka Memory Care Assisted Living Residences to seniors with early stage and mid-stage Alzheimer's Disease and/or a related dementia. The Memory Care Assisted Living Residences at NewBridge on the Charles provides a personalized and meaningful assisted living experience for residents based on the history, preferences and goals of each individual. Short-term stays now available. 

Learn more about Memory Care at NewBridge

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Ruth Kandel, MD's picture

About the Blogger

Geriatrician, Hebrew SeniorLife, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School until December 2016

Ruth Kandel obtained her bachelor's degree from State University of New York, Buffalo and her medical degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She completed a residency in internal medicine at Boston City Hospital and a geriatrics fellowship at Bedford Veteran's Administration Hospital/Boston University Medical Center. She is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. Her academic interests include Alzheimer's disease, memory disorders, and infection control in long-term care...

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